|The quiet after a fiesta|
On our final morning in Palawan, I snagged an early breakfast with the other two travelers and took the tricycle with them to the tiny island airport. Thus began my adventure.
First of all, the other four people with me had tickets to fly out in the morning; my ticket was for a 4:50 PM flight. I figured I may as well try to get out on a flight with them, even if it meant stand-by. I went through security – with shoes and sunglasses on! – and got in line for the flight. When I got up to the counter, he told me I had to wait until the check-in closed before he could see if a flight was available.
I scooted under the “closed” sign and asked him about it. He typed in a few things, but then he said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do anything. Because you bought a discounted ticket, you can’t fly on this flight.” What? I even offered to pay more just to get going, and he said “no.” Yikes. This was definitely not the result I was hoping for.
So, I bid my other friends farewell, took my bag, and went back out of the airport to the tricycle stand. I asked him to take me back to Banwa for the day, considering I could relax there on their terrace and have meals and drinks whilst waiting for my flight later in the afternoon.
The staff at Banwa was awesome. She didn’t care that I’d shown up again after checking out, and she started me a tab for coffee since it was still mega-early in the morning. So, I got out my journal and a book – I wish I had brought my iPad! – and started writing and reading.
I ordered lunch around 1:00 and added more to my journal before I decided on leaving around 3:15 for my flight. I made my way back to the airport via tricycle, checked in through the awful, long lines, paid my departure fee, and went to rest in the overcrowded waiting room. There were so many people crammed in there, and the line for drinks was long! To make matters worse, I couldn’t hear any of the flights being called, so I ended up siding with two other American tourists who were traveling to Manila as well. We would stick together!
Our flight ended up being an hour late, which meant I got into Manila even later than I’d thought. By now, I was so very tired, cranky, and not open to being scammed by taxi drivers looking to charge an arm and a leg. When I walked out of the airport, one of them pounced and told me that I could get a taxi for 900 pesos – to go 2 km!
He and I argued over it – how did I know it was only 2 km? (I had booked through Expedia!) It took a long time to get there (I doubt so – it’s only 2 km!). It’s air-con (And?) He tried to give me a “deal” at 750 pesos, so I said, “Listen, I have 500 pesos in my pocket. Since I need to get dinner and pay to get to the airport tomorrow, I can’t give you all of that. So how about 250?”
See? Poker face and bargaining skills had come in handy! So, for 250 pesos, I got my taxi ride to my hotel. Now, at the hotel, the manager said I owed a 1000 peso deposit. Uh – there is no way I’m walking down a dark alley to an ATM. Besides, the only reason why I had to take a taxi in the first place was because they hadn’t sent my airport shuttle van that I’d arranged in advance anyway. They were nice enough to waive the deposit. I was only going to be there for a few hours anyway – my flight was at 6:05 AM the next morning, and it was already 7:00 PM.
|Mall of Asia decorated for CNY.|
Then, I dropped my stuff off in the room, grabbed my purse, and asked the front desk, “Where is the nearest Starbucks?” I wanted to get that hallowed mug of all awesomeness to add to my growing collection of city and country Starbucks mugs.
The nearest Starbucks was located at the enormous Mall of Asia, the second largest mall in the world. So, they offered me use of the shuttle van, which I gladly accepted, and I arranged with him to meet me outside the Starbucks in exactly an hour and a half. He was confused at so short a time, because, as he asked, “You are a woman, aren’t you? Don’t you want to shop?”
Dear sweet heaven – don’t get me started … don’t get me started …
“I just want a Starbucks mug – the rest of it doesn’t matter.”
I’m sure he thought I was insane, but, oh well. I’m used to that look by now.
The mall was absolutely huge and easy to get lost in. Fortunately, he had dropped me right by the Starbucks. I bought my mug, a dark mocha frapp (the BEST frapp in the world – had the best chocolate taste ever!), and a little pastry for my dinner.
|CNY decorations & the carousel –
Mall of Asia
Since I had so much time now to look around, I found a Lush store – a brand of high-quality and absolutely fabulous bath products – and had a great conversation with the salesgirls. They gushed over the fact that I was from America, living in China. They asked me the best places to go in the US, since it was their dream to visit one day, though they pointed out it was very expensive and unlikely to happen for them. That just made me count all my amazing blessings – that I was able to bounce about and travel as I pleased now, something I had thought impossible only a year ago. I hoped that one day they might be able to go – especially since they were so earnest about it!
I got myself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for my iPhone – if it wasn’t sunglasses I was destroying constantly, it’s ear-buds, for some weird reason – and a book at the giant National Bookstore. It was pleasant to do a spot of shopping at the mall.
My last stop, besides the ATM again, was to the French Cafe, a little bakery shop right by the mall’s exit. I picked up several pastries for breakfast the following morning, especially since it was going to be a mega-early start, and I doubted that the restaurants and shops at the airport would be open at 4 AM.
I met my shuttle van outside – thankfully, I saw him in the mass of cars! – and immediately went up to my room after making sure that a) my wake-up call was confirmed, and b) that the airport shuttle would be ready to go at 3:10 the next morning.
|Insert key here for electricity.|
I was able to take a short but HOT shower, flipped on the air-con – strangely enough, the power in the room was operated by putting a large plastic key into a sleeve by the entrance – and curled up into bed.
It was a nice sleep.
It was a strange sleep.
It was a – short – sleep.